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Sunday, 17 June 2012
Not long now to the main event, the highlight of the year; the excitement heading into the unknown, the unpredictability that is the West Highland Way Race. No matter my previous experience or how well training has gone, the weather is the only thing that can scupper my goal of swinging the doors off their hinges at the Leisure Centre. I’m not afraid of a bit of weather, I’ve got seven rain jackets to choose from, an Inov8, a Goretex, three Montane, an Aldi’s tenner special and another that I can’t remember what it is! I commend my friends when they have used common sense and aborted runs and races in the face of life threatening conditions, I doubt I’ll ever be that sensible; I’ve been lucky that all the miserable conditions I’ve encountered haven’t done me in, I completed the Marcothon in 2010 outside in over a foot of snow, (treadmills are unnatural), my 5 mile route was taking an hour and a half but I never gave in, once my hat was blown off the top of West Kip in the Pentlands, except it was firmly attached to my head at the time but I regained my feet. During Hurricane Bawbag I recorded a sub six minute mile and also a fifteen minute mile, (we did modify our run that day from Conic Hill to a route with no trees round Preston Island on the Fife coast, and that six minute mile was scary, I thought I was going to smash my face in, my legs struggled to keep up with my body!) Rain? Pah, it’s only water; as long as you’re warm you’re fine. But the Scottish Highland weather is not to taken lightly, the race has been stopped for safety a few times before, the last time in 2005, if Sean decides to stop the race, I will respect his decision and I hope I can handle my devastation with a bit of stoicism.
In one of the early podcasts Lee was giving very good advice and I totally agreed with her every word until she said “It is only a race!” I took a sharp intake of disagreement, of course she is right, there is nothing worth an early grave but if it wasn’t for the WHW race I doubt I would be who I am today or had found the strength to face what life has thrown my way.
Running 95 miles in the most scenic part of the country is a luxury only the fit and healthy have the privilege to choose to experience.
My training has gone well this year, I predict a finish! Ok I’ll narrow it down a bit, somewhere between 26.14.47 (a PB by one second) and 34.59.59 (just inside the time limit) but hopefully sub 30 hours.
There are only two things that will get you into Fort William, well I suppose three really, your body, that’s the thing most folk spend ages training and getting into shape but that is the least important part of the trilogy, and it can take a lot of abuse, niggling injuries, blisters, dodgy guts, concrete quads, broken bones (Mark Hamilton) these things only slow you down but do not stop you. Your body just holds what will get you beyond Kingshouse. No matter if your training has gone well and covered mega miles or you’ve hurpled along on a handful. No matter if your rain jacket is a high price, high tech, state of the art, hundred pounder, or a plastic poncho from the pound shop. No matter if your shoes are the expensive, new, all the rage ones or thirty quid in the sale. Two things and two things only will get you to Fort William… HEART and SOUL! Your body will suffer some collateral damage and only to be expected but as long as your heart can roar like a lion and your soul sings you will get your goblet.
Here’s a song that the last verse never fails to bring my emotion to the surface, I’ve ran naked before and by that I mean stripped to the core, heart and soul carrying my bag of bones, and I’ll do it again as long as my body draws breath.
Hold my soul, let it carry me!
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
I picked up Pauline Friday morning, we decided to go up the A9 and turn left at Dalwhinnie, I prefer the Tyndrum, Glencoe road with glimpses of the West Highland Way but with the World Cup being on in Fort William (the mountain bike one) there would probably be delays going that way.
After our traditional stop for a picnic at Eilean Donan Castle (wondering how many millions of photos are taken there every day) we tootled our way up to Portree, we called into the big Co-op before going to our B&B, they were only accepting cash due to a technical problem, we later heard that the whole of Skye’s broadband was wiped out because thieving numpties cut the fibre optic cable around Lochcarron or Kyle of Lochalsh thinking they were stealing copper cable, so it was good old fashioned cash for Friday night.
We picked up our numbers and laughed at “being at sixes and sevens” after a bite to eat we headed into the Tongadale, we promised Ozzie, Karen and Sarah from Sheffield that we’d have a pint for them since they weren’t going to manage up to Skye this year, I think they’ve been coming nearly as long as we have, our first Skye half was in 1993, we’ve missed a few years here and there but glad to see Davie Aitken keeping his record going, he’s now ran all 29!
Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful, warm, and sunny with hardly a cloud in the sky and a bit of a wee breeze to keep the midgies away. Perfect! Also for the first time this year I didn’t have a t-shirt under my vest! I haven’t “raced” the Skye half for quite a few years since it’s usually the week before the West Highland Way race so Pauline and I run together enjoying a last leg stretch before the big adventure, this year there was two weeks between the races but I still didn’t want to work hard and wasn’t concerned what time we’d do, Pauline has standards and as the Pipe Band was leading us to the start line she said, “Right, if we’re over two hours you’re buying the ice-creams, if we’re under I’ll buy them!” I thought Aw naw, pressure! But I accepted the challenge.
The first few miles are undulating up hills and folk were settling into their pace, it was quite warm as the breeze, if any, was behind us, but that’s how I like it. The route has wide open scenery all the way and the Pipe Band appeared again around 5 miles. My legs felt really good and strong, I was relaxed and comfortable keeping the pace under cruise control, and we were steadily passing people. At the Borve drink station, I could hear Fiona (Chief Wee Grumpy) before I saw her, but it’s great having friends in high places, with Vicki’s help we were handed a Capri-Sun instead of water. (photo from Vicki MacLean)
It was a lovely wee boost just before the big hill at 9 miles, I had to breathe a bit more near the top but the legs still felt good and strong, after going over the top it is just over 2 miles to the finish and all downhill, with gravity assistance (checked my watch for the first time) we were sub 8 minute mile-ing, (steep downhill) AND Pauline was on the ice-creams! We finished in 1.52.54, which was a lovely surprise and proved to me that I'm in great shape and ready for the WHW.
I’m afraid we were a wee bit anti-social and didn’t stay for the prize giving, it was too nice a day to stay in a school hall and our time on Skye is short so we took our race mementos and a picnic up to the coral beach near Dunvegan, it had clouded over a bit and breezy at the top end of the island, perfect hat wearing weather! Debbie gave us a lovely surprise, a wee while ago I’d commented on a facebook photo she’d posted of the HBT hats she’s been busy knitting.
We rounded of the evening with a lovely meal, a couple of pints and a couple of malts.
For quite a few years, we’ve come away saying we’ll need to do the Heb 3 Challenge, and for next year we really mean it!
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Ages ago Vicky invited me through facebook to an event, The West Island Way on the Isle of Bute. I said to Pauline, do you think running 29 miles three weeks before the WHW race is too much? She said no, so I asked her if she’d like to come as well, and we accepted the invitation.
So yesterday I picked up Pauline at the back of 6.00am and never got home until the back of 10.00pm and the time in between was absolutely brilliant!
We met Silke at Wymess Bay for the 8.45am ferry; Vicky met us off the boat and drove us to the start of the West Island Way, we didn’t have long to wait until the rest of gang arrived, Ada, John, Terry, Sue and Drew. There was a bit of a cool breeze but it was a bright sunny day, the weather was going to be good.
Customary photo and we were under way; I tried not to stop too often to take photos but I was clicking away, sticking in a bit of fartek to keep up. I was in a new place making new footprints and I didn’t want to miss anything. The West Island Way might be short in comparison to other long distance footpaths but it is super concentrated in terrain and scenery, rough shore path (with a notice to prove it!)
tarmac road, farm track, rolling hills, forest track, open moor, beach, and even a golf course.
(love this photie)
A big thanks to Tommy (Mr Vicky) and their lovey assistant, Arran, for meeting us at Loch Fad with bottles of water and bars of chocolate. We had another stop at the Ettrick Bay Café where I have never seen such huge cakes, the size of the lemon meringue should be checked by the Guinness Book of Records and I had the biggest slice of carrot cake I’ve ever seen!
The last few miles of the route have recently been changed. There are marker posts but no beaten track so with a bit of bog hopping and a lot of heather bashing
we made our way up the hill before dropping down and round into Rothesay and the finish. Tommy and Arran were there with bananas, cans of juice and certificates for our achievements.
Silke, Pauline and I will have to get better organised for next year, the others stayed overnight. There is talk of a winter run, count me in, this was my first visit to Bute and it won’t be my last.
Vicky, thank you and your family for your hospitality and showing us your island. A brilliant day out with great company, a day that’s going to keep me smiling through the dreaded taperitis of the next three weeks!